PLYMOUTH — CASA of NH, a non-profit organization whose volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children in the NH courts, needs additional volunteers throughout the state. There is a strong contingency of current volunteer advocates that work out of the Laconia court, but not enough to keep up with the incidence of juvenile abuse and neglect cases. To address this need, applications are being taken for a pre-service training that will begin in the area on May 16.
Training will most likely take place at the CASA office located at Whole Village in Plymouth ,although there is always the possibility of switching it to Laconia if more people are from that area. The first day of training will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is an adult who has been accepted into the CASA program and has completed the pre-service training. "Our CASAs are everyday heroes who are making a meaningful and positive difference for the most vulnerable young people in our communities. Our volunteer advocates come from various backgrounds and experiences. They do not need any experience in law or social work; just a willingness to make a difference, an open mind and ability to be objective. The training is very thorough and then continuing education and support is available after the CASA accepts a case," says North Country Training & Recruitment Coordinator Jen Buteau.
CASAs are appointed by the court to independently monitor and report on abused children. They write reports with their recommendations for court hearings. Additionally, they really get to know the child or youth by meeting with them at least monthly and also talking to the various people in their lives. The volunteer advocate is expected to continue to work in this role until the child is in a safe and permanent home. While that length of time varies greatly, on average the cases are lasting approximately 22 months.
To become a CASA, one must be at least 21 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Each potential volunteer must complete and application, pass various background checks and go through a comprehensive interview to ensure it is a good fit for both the volunteer and for the organization. On average, volunteers donate ten hours a month related to their child advocate role. Some of this time is meeting with the children while the balance of it may be talking to the various adults in the child's life, reading or writing reports, brainstorming with their supervisor about resources and recommendations, researching or other case related activities.